A line in an op-ed by former Providence Journal columnist Edward Fitzpatrick has stuck in my head for the past few days:
There are near-daily additions to a dangerous “enemy-of-the-people” line of attack [against the mainstream media], which is chipping away at a cornerstone of our democracy.
“Chipping away at a cornerstone of our democracy.” I wonder what Fitzpatrick thinks of the press’s role in demonizing President George W. Bush (including Dan Rather’s infamous Memogate), fawning over President Barack Obama, belittling the Tea Party, demonizing Republican Presidential Candidates John McCain and Mitt Romney (but only when they were running against Obama), and playing their part in the ongoing effort to delegitimize the current (legitimately elected) president.
Another line ought to have stuck in Fitzpatrick’s head, but he seems not even to have picked up on its true import (emphasis added):
Here in the home of the First Amendment, the last thing we should ever see is a U.S. president praising a politician who was convicted of assaulting a reporter. But that’s exactly what happened on Oct. 18, when Trump praised Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Montana, for body-slamming a reporter in 2017. Trump said anyone who did such a thing was “my kind of guy.” Worse yet, the crowd cheered.
Now, Gianforte’s actions were wrong, and Trump’s lauding of them was callous, but: “the crowd cheered.” I’d suggest that the crowd was primed to cheer long before President Trump began using their attitude toward the media for his own advantage. Those folks have long experience with the plain reality that, when it comes to any issue of importance to elite sensibilities or keeping liberal Democrats in power, the press is not above trying to use its cornerstone to shift democracy.
President Trump is too blunt and vehement in pushing back against the press, but a big contributor to his success has been the frustration of “the crowd” that nobody else would or could. Perhaps rather than presenting that crowd as mindless drones manipulated by the president, Fitzpatrick and his peers should ask why the mainstream media lost their trust and what journalists and their employers could do to earn it back.